Jeff Gordon's 2012 keeps getting more and more unbelievable.
Once again, Gordon had a competitive car during Saturday night's race at Darlington despite an early Darlington Stripe. And, fleetingly, anyway, there were glimmers of hope that the black cloud that has hovered over his season would start to lift. But those glimmers vanished as soon as his left-rear tire started to go flat on Lap 194.
As Gordon made his way to pit road, it looked like he would catch a relative break, no pun intended, as the caution flag flew for debris from his tire right as he entered the pits. That meant that instead of potentially two laps down under green, the four-time champion would be able to line up just one lap down.
Alas, when you're in Jeff Gordon's 2012, when things go south, they really go south. Just a few laps after the restart, his tire went down again, and the team was forced to take the car to the garage for repairs. He ended up 35th, 29 laps down.
A week after falling six spots in the standings to 23rd, Gordon's continued issues dropped him another spot to 24th, 170 points behind points leader Greg Biffle. The man that passed Gordon in the standings? Mark Martin, who did so despite running only eight of the season's 11 events. That's how crazy of a season it's been for Gordon. For the Chase, wins are now imperative. But so is getting into the top 20.